Actually the beautiful eyes of this pair of great horned owls, the largest owl in Texas, would only be frightening if you came upon them unexpectedly. Jimmy Walker and I checked in on these owls today in a storage building in Carson County. This pair has used this same building for nesting for the last several years. Great horned owls are powerful hunters, taking prey like rodents, rabbits, and even skunks (most birds do not have a good sense of smell) with their large powerful talons. They have great vision, even under low light conditions, but can rely completely on hearing to locate and accurately target their prey. They consume small prey whole and larger prey in pieces and later regurgitate the indigestible parts like fur, feathers, and bones in pellets. These owl pellets can often be found under roosts and some times in large numbers. If you pick through the pellets you can look into the diet of the owls, or the fate of their prey, depending on your perspective. I digest the fur and pull out the small mammal skulls to teach my mammalogy students to identify these using dental and cranial (skull) characteristics. You can have your children look through pellets to get a sense of what these animals are eating or to simply look at these small skulls. Anything to help get kids interested in nature. If keen eyesight, super hearing, and sharp powerful talons weren’t enough to give rodents and rabbits nightmares, owls also have specialized feathers that reduce turbulence and flight noise making them practically silent in flight. I tip my hat to the protective land owner who keeps a watchful eye on “his” owls and sure wouldn’t want to be a rodent living around his place!
Sorry for the shaky video, but the winds were, well, Panhandle-like this morning.